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Buying guide for Best powder foundation makeup

If you want an easy-to-apply foundation that lasts all day, powder foundation makeup is an excellent choice.

Powder foundation makeup is similar to tinted setting powder, but it is more finely milled and much more pigmented, providing greater coverage. It can even out skin tone and hide blemishes, dark spots, and other imperfections, and it has a light and natural look on the skin. It is particularly effective at absorbing oil and minimizing shine, and there is little mess involved in its application.

If this sounds appealing and you prefer a soft, natural makeup look, powder foundation makeup may be right for you. Read our buying guide for tips about selecting the right formula for your skin type as well as information about finish, shade, SPF coverage, and other features. For the easiest shopping experience, we invite you to check out the top powder foundations we’re recommending.

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Powder foundation makeup is generally quicker to apply than liquid and cream formulas, so it’s perfect for days when you’re in a hurry.

Key considerations

Skin type

You can wear powder foundation regardless of your skin type if you choose the right formula and prepare your skin properly. That said, it is a better option for some skin types than others.

Oily skin: Powder foundation makeup is an ideal choice for oily skin. Oily skin is usually shiny, and the powder can help absorb excess oil to give skin a matte finish. It doesn’t break down in the heat as easily as liquid formulas do, either.

Combination skin: If you have combination skin, which is usually oily in the T-zone and dry in the cheeks, you may like powder foundation makeup. It can help absorb oil on the forehead, nose, and chin, but a light dusting won’t be too much for drier spots.

Dry or mature skin: If you have dry or mature skin, you may wish to look for a powder foundation with hydrating ingredients. However, as a general rule, it is best to avoid a powder formula if you have dry, flaky patches that the makeup might cling to.

Pressed vs. loose

Powder foundation makeup is available in pressed and loose formulas.

Pressed powder foundation is the most common formula. Powder is combined with a binder to create a solid product, which is housed in a compact. Pressed powder usually offers greater coverage than loose powder, though it can look heavier on the skin. It’s typically easier to apply because you don’t have to worry about spillage. The portable nature of a pressed powder compact makes it easy to toss in a bag for touch-ups during the day.

Loose powder foundation features powder without binding agents. This product comes in a tub or pot, usually with a sifter on top to eliminate mess. Loose powder generally does not provide as much coverage as pressed powder, but it offers a lightweight look and feel for those who prefer natural makeup. Because loose powder can spill, application tends to be a bit messy.

Many loose powder foundations are mineral-based formulas. These formulas tend to contain natural ingredients that are better for the skin.


Most powder foundation makeup has a matte finish. Matte powder doesn’t reflect light, so it minimizes shine. In addition, it may absorb excess oil to keep you shine-free all day.

If you have dry or mature skin, consider a powder foundation makeup with an illuminating or radiant finish. The finish reflects light to give skin a healthy glow. Notably, however, even radiant powder foundation can look heavy and cling to flaky patches on dry skin, so it’s best to use a light hand.

Avoid using cream-based blush, bronzer, or highlighter with powder foundation, as the combination of powder plus cream can make you look cakey.



Shade range

A powder that matches your skin tone creates the most natural look. Companies that make a wide range of shades are more likely to have your ideal match. Some powder foundations only come in 10 to 12 shades. Others come in up to 30 shades.


In addition to choosing a foundation shade that matches your skin tone, look for a shade with the right undertones. Undertones are grouped into four main categories: warm, cool, neutral, and olive.

  • Warm: Your skin leans warm if it has golden or yellow undertones.
  • Cool: Your skin leans cool if it has pink or red undertones.
  • Neutral: Your skin is neutral if it doesn’t have noticeable yellow/golden or pink/red undertones.
  • Olive: Your skin may have olive undertones if it’s medium, tan, or deep and has yellow or golden tones with a slightly greenish cast.


Wearing sunscreen every day can help prevent fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots as well as skin cancer. Some powder foundation makeup includes SPF, which helps if you forget to apply a separate sunscreen product and makes it easier to reapply SPF throughout the day.

If you want your powder foundation makeup to work as a sunscreen, make sure it offers at least SPF15 to ensure adequate sun protection.

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If you have dry skin, make sure your primer, powder foundation, and setting spray contain hydrating ingredients, which can prevent your skin from looking dry and dehydrated.


Foundation primer: Estee Lauder Illuminating Perfecting Primer
With powder foundation, it’s essential to use a high-quality foundation primer to smooth and hydrate the skin. This primer from Estee Lauder not only hydrates but brightens the skin and reduces redness.

Makeup setting spray: Coola Green Tea Aloe Setting Spray
The right setting spray can take away the powdery look from your foundation. We love this spray from Coola because it contains soothing aloe vera and cucumber as well as  SPF30 for extra sun protection.

Powder foundation makeup prices


The most affordable powder foundation makeup comes from drugstore brands and typically offers light coverage. Expect to pay between $7 and $19 for these foundations.


Mid-range powder foundation makeup usually contains higher-quality ingredients (including SPF) and provides light to medium coverage. You’ll typically pay between $20 and $39 for these foundations.


Luxury beauty brands make the most expensive powder foundations. These products usually provide medium to full coverage and feature SPF. Expect to pay between $40 and $64 for these foundations.

For extra coverage, apply powder foundation over tinted moisturizer or liquid foundation.



  • Give your moisturizer or primer at least five minutes to soak into your skin before applying powder foundation. If your skincare products aren’t fully absorbed, they can grab onto the powder and cause it to look splotchy or cakey.
  • Unlike liquid and cream foundation, powder foundation does not apply well with your fingers. Use a brush or sponge to gently blend the powder into your skin.
  • If you prefer a sheer look, use a fluffy makeup brush to apply powder foundation makeup. For more coverage, use a dense, flat-top kabuki brush to buff it into the skin. A makeup sponge also provides more coverage.
  • Use care when applying powder foundation beneath your eyes. That area tends to be dry, so too much powder can accentuate the texture. A light dusting is more than enough; some people prefer not to apply any powder there at all.
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As with other foundations, start by applying powder foundation to the areas of your face that require the most coverage. Blend the remaining powder over the rest of your face.


Q. How should I prep my skin for powder foundation makeup?

A. As with any foundation, always start with clean skin. Apply your usual skincare products and serums, including moisturizer. It’s crucial to ensure your skin is properly hydrated before applying powder foundation.

It also helps to apply a primer, which can fill in pores and fine lines and wrinkles to prevent the powder from clinging to those areas. A primer can also provide extra moisture if you need it.

Q. Do I need to set powder foundation makeup?

A. Applying a setting powder over powder foundation usually creates a dry, cakey look that is unflattering. If you have extremely oily skin, though, you may want to dust a light layer over your T-zone to prevent shine.

A makeup setting spray is a better option for setting powder makeup. It locks the foundation in place and can help take away the powdery look.

Q. Can I use a concealer with powder foundation makeup?

A. You can pair a concealer with powder foundation, but you must apply the products in the correct order. Apply liquid or cream concealer before applying your foundation to prevent the powder from clinging to the concealer and creating a cakey mess. By applying powder foundation on top, you set the concealer in place.


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